Ashley in Paris

Ashley, a member of the University Honors Program and a senior majoring in art history, was awarded a Richter International Fellowship to conduct independent, graduate-level research this summer in Paris, where she plans to examine primary documents and pieces of chinoiserie at the major libraries and museums. Chinoiserie was an 18th-century movement in Europe characterized by the production of goods that portrayed China as an idyllic utopia, with plump pagodes, mystic sages and enlightened philosophers.

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Concluding the Paris portion of my research

After returning from Chantilly on Sunday, I spent Monday and Tuesday fervently working to wrap up all of my research in Paris.

Richter4.jpgMonday morning I headed to the Bibliotheque des arts decoratifs to photograph several books containing images that are completely indispensable to my research (see photo of one of the many images that I was able to photograph). I was extremely grateful to have the opportunity to reproduce these images. Due to the delicate nature of many of the books I examined, few could be subjected to photocopying. However, the Bibliotheque des arts decoratifs is kind enough to allow patrons to photograph these books on Monday mornings. So, I filled out the necessary paperwork and was able to obtain all of the images vital to my research. I love it when things work out.

Richter5.jpgI spent all day Tuesday at the BNF (see photo of the East entrance of the library). I needed to see a few things on microfilm and also consult several books only available in the rare books room. I had been saving these things for the end of my research, preferring to look at all of the easily available books right away. I had never used microfilm before and was a little nervous about figuring the whole system out. However, I consider myself fairly technologically savvy (if you consider a 20-year-old microfilm machine all that technological) and was sure that I could figure it out.

Luckily, I did, but only after 10 minutes of frustration. I turned the machine on, lifted the glass plate, inserted the film, etc, etc. But still the film would not feed by itself. Of course when I tried to do it manually that was not only time consuming but caused me to get fingerprints all over the film. Finally, I realized that you have to hook the film inside a hollow space in the roller so that it will be taut as the rest of the film progresses from one roll to the other. Voila!

After that fiasco, I headed to the rare book room (Salle Y) to hopefully gain access to several 18th-century works. I was able to see one of them, but when the librarian placed it on a velvety fabric and told me that I could crack the book open only an inch “maximum,” I was discouraged. It is nearly impossible to read small, 18th-century type in dim lighting with only an inch of space to peer into. I understand that the binding is fragile, but come on! I tried my best, but found very little. Knowing that the same fate lay ahead for the remaining books I wanted to examine, I decided to call it quits. I am hoping to gain access to facsimiles or newer editions elsewhere.

With that, my research at the Paris libraries was concluded. However, I still had a few days to enjoy the city, and I was thrilled!

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